Rome Travel Guide

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Genazzano: The Art and Science of Fried Dough

Not long ago we found ourselves among thousands (literally) of others, wandering the streets of Genazzano, a hilltown to Rome's east, just beyond Palestrina.  The sun had set, and the teens were off by themselves at the end of town, some (of the boys) engaging in mock combat, others sitting on the ground in groups in a dark piazza framed on one side by ancient aqueducts and on the other by a sensational view of the valley and the Lepini mountains beyond.  They knew what they were doing.

We spent most of our time on the town's main streets, people watching, at once entertained and bored by an improvisational dance troup of limited talent and a New Orleans-style jazz band doing their version of Dixieland.

Eating was the order of the evening--several of the piazzas had been strung with wire that was then draped with cut branches, creating arbor-like open-air restaurants. 

We had already dined at our 3-star Hotel Cremona, but Dianne's sweet tooth beckoned, and she lined up for that festival staple, fried dough with sugar, sensibly rejecting the alternatives: fried dough with salt or smeared with Nutella, a commercial product made of chocolate and hazel nuts.  The sign at the booth labeled these concoctions "Pizze Fritte [literally, fried pizzas] Da Sora Cesira [by Sister/Nun Cesira]."  Probably the best translation would be "Sister Cesira's Fried Dough."  1 Euro. 

It took about 10 minutes for Dianne to be served--for a reason that will soon become clear--enough time for Bill to study and photograph the "assembly line," consisting entirely of older women.  One woman mixed the dough.  Another shaped it into right-sized balls.  A third flattened it into a rounded form and, using her thumb, put a small hole in the center.  

The last on the line placed the dough into a tub of boiling oil--one after the other--turning each one to assure uniform cooking and browning, then removing them for sugaring (or salting or Nutella-ing), at the other end of the line.

Dianne's wait was predictable; there was only one tub of boiling oil, the tub held only 10-12 pieces of dough, and the cooking took about ten minutes (maybe 8).  Delicious, even if not so nutritious. 

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